Federal money expands The BusBy Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | September 12,2012The Bus is getting more buses.
Seven new vehicles will join the fleet of Marble Valley Regional Transit District, operators of The Bus, funded by a $1.4 million earmark secured by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“Public transportation is growing in Vermont,” Leahy said in a prepared statement issued Monday. “It helps knit communities and neighborhoods together, and it is helps strengthen our economic infrastructure. These new buses will improve service for The Bus passengers through downtown and on the commuter lines.”
Minga Dana, executive director of The Bus, said Tuesday that three of the new vehicles will replace old ones while four will be used to expand MVRTD’s 54-bus fleet.
“We expanded our routes and we haven’t expanded our buses to cover it,” Dana said. “Every vehicle is in use at certain times and we can’t operate like that because if something breaks down, you’re stuck.”
Dana said Marble Valley follows a replacement schedule and that the Vermont Agency of Transportation does its best to keep bus services around the state running by funding replacements. With no buses to spare, though, Dana said the federal money would be a welcome help.
Leahy, who is the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, got the money in the transportation budget passed in 2010.
While total ridership dropped during the 2011-12 fiscal year, Dana said the overall upward trend was continuing, with The Bus giving roughly 596,000 rides.
“It’s due to the not-so-great weather we had in Killington for skiing,” she said of the decrease. “We were down in Killington for the year by 22,000.”
The total drop for the region was only 6,400, Dana said, indicating that ridership would have been up were it not for Killington’s woes. She said the six city routes climbed from 217,500 to 232,700.
“One of our hopes is to add some more midday service to the Middlebury route, which has been a great success,” she said. “It remains to be seen if there will be any funding for that.”
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